I have redefined retirement at age 23. I have a lifestyle where I do the things I like, with the time I have and still get paid for it. I designed my freedom these two decades, traveling to more than 40 countries. I run a successful business doing consulting works as a Corporate Writer, Corporate Emcee, Event Producer and a Workshop Facilitator. I am also a talk-show host on an Internet Radio station with two programs "A Course In Miracles for Work-Life" and "Freedom Speaks". Life is Healthy, Rich & FREE! You can design this lifestyle according to your willingness. I hope mine will inspire you to achieve that freedom too.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Purple Nostalgia 紫之忆

  突然想看看以前拍的照片。二十年里所收集的照片真的好多,应该有超过一万张吧。已经注入电脑里的都超过五千张了。 以前我用的底片都是专业摄影师拍的那些幻灯片。因为没有存好,所以很多张幻灯片都已经聚了霉菌。

当时玩相机,只是嗜好而已,不过却好认真。去游玩时都会不屈不挠的背著一款那时蛮先进的NIKON 801s, 附带一个 20mm 和一台 28-75mm 的镜头,一个 polarizer, 可以用来把自然的色素线条调净的一种镜框。游山玩水时还扛著一个三脚架,背包里还装著二十卷的菲林。背包好重,可是锺爱摄影的那种心得总是把背包的重量无意间减得好轻。就这样的走遍了好多个国家,喝了好多种咖啡,温暖了无数了阔的心扉,把视野也加深了那种菜根谈的透视,心宽了,思维四海为导因,人生的脚步也如云一般轻松自在的遨游,好写意。

The storm had begun. The torrential rain beating the zinc roof with such force it was deafening. The strong hustling wind whistled through the gaps in-between the wooden houses. They were built on stilts in the middle of the ocean. It shook them so much the houses rattled to its forces. But these were houses built with strong arms and centuries of nomadic experiences. They stood the test of times and of all that weather condition off the coast of Semporna. It is a tiny fishing village in Sabah, which is also the gateway to the world renowned dive site of Pulau Sipadan.

The Sulu Sea continued to roar with the rolling waves, hitting the stilts just below the master bedroom. Between the gaps of the wooden planks that made up the floor, the sound of the waves pushing the sampan against the column was eerie to some, but it was melodic nevertheless. It was pitch dark, nobody was moving. The wind continued to howl, as if there was a terrible thing had happened and nature was mourning its lost. The windows were well shut, but through the cracks, the rain seeped in and licked the wood as if eating up its grains.

Strangely, I felt safe. Amidst all the howling, the rocking and the sound of the wind, in the darkest time of the night, I actually felt cuddly and warm. I was given the best room in the wooden stilt house of a family of 9 members who were the descendants of the nomadic sea gypsies called the Bajau Laut people. The head of the family, who was the father, brought me here to stay with them while I used his boat exclusively for my seafaring trip around the isles off Semporna. 

I was offered his master bedroom, the only room in the whole house, for a few days. As it happened, it rained the night and I was enjoying the lullaby while I cuddled into my sleeping bag. 

The next morning, I witnessed the most wonderful scene. The water retreated a little and right outside the window, a man with sun-drenched skin and a body of muscle hugging stature, carried a long wood, I guessed it was meant for fishing, straddling it across the sea water. All the houses were built on the ocean floor, so when the tide was high, people who walked in the water looked as if they were walking in the middle of the ocean. 

It was one of those memorable scenery caught on film. And many of these fantastic shots are made available in my picture stocks with Picture Library, a company who stocks my pictures and offer the copyright to publishing companies.  These are some of my grade AAA pictures taken throughout my earlier years of traveling with Fuji Velvia films and a Nikon 801s camera. I carried a tripod, 2 camera lens, a 20mm and a 28-75mm lens. Stuffing up my rucksack were 20 rolls of slides, each with more than 36 exposures and a polariser. 

Those were some jaw dropping beautiful pictures I took when I was in Ho Chi Minh City, Semporna, Jugra, Mt Kinabalu, Miri National Park and Angkor Wat. These have been converted from slides to digital. They are available for viewing at Picture Library's website.

Looking back at some of the pictures, I am appalled by the artistic drape of the whole composition of my camera works. It is always astounding to look back at some of the wonderment of my creativity. Also, to reminisce the many places where I had been. The feeling is nostalgic.


很遗憾的是,好多的照片不是被霉菌侵蚀了,就是电脑失灵导致全部软件受毁,包括了我所有的照片。所可以挽救的照片历历可数,还蛮好的了, 失而复得。原來的路途雖然跋涉了千里,心情的留步,如今又有照片回憶,是褔吗?褔亦富也。

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Soups Recipes

It is very comforting to come home to a bowl of creamy hot soup, especially when it is pouring outside, cold and wet. After a hot shower, while drying your hair, someone serves you a bowl of steaming hot soup, that will be so warm, for the heart as well as to satisfy your gastronomical desires.

Soup is one of the easiest food to make, fast, light and yummy. If you don't fancy having heavy dinner, do soups.
All my recipes, I modified them from various cookbooks. After making a few rounds, I sort of know how much ingredients I need, what to add, how it will taste if I add this and that. Cooking make me feel like a magician, an alchemist actually, putting things together and create great foods that activate all my 5 senses in one seating : 
see the colors of the ingredients,
feel the texture of the ingredients,
smell the natural fragrance of the fresh ingredients,
taste the ingredients and lastly,
listen while the ingredients simmer, crack and cook.
Isn't it fascinating? It is really very therapeutic and very meditative to me when I cook. 
Lets start by making a simple stock for almost all types of soups. It can be frozen in a 2-cup pack to be used anytime. Sometimes, you don’t even need to thaw the stock, just put in the whole frozen stock into a pot with all the other ingredients, it will melt with the heat.

Chicken Stock
Ingredients :
2 big Chicken carcass (or meat if you prefer)
2 big onions (with skin)
2 big carrot (no shredding, leave skin)
Few stalks of celery (with leaves)
Few peppercorn
4 liters of water
Clean the chicken carcass and put into a 4-liter pot. Add in all the ingredients without cutting them unless they are too long to fit the pot. Bring to a boil. Then lower the flame to simmer for 4 hours. 
Leave to cool. Remove and dispose of all the ingredients.  Holding on to a filter, scoop about 2-cup into a plastic bag. Seal them properly and freeze. Makes about 5 packs.
Now, lets see how we use it for some great comfort soups, ie, Pumpkin soup and French Onion Soup.
Pumpkin Soup
  • 1 kg pumpkin
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • some garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk or yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

I learnt from a cookbook to cut the pumpkin into quarter, brush it with some oil and bake it in the oven. This way, the pumpkin is softened and I can just scoop the flesh with a spoon. 
Add pumpkin, stock, water, onion, garlic and cumin. Bring to the boil, about 15 mins. Leave it to cool. Transfer to a blender and process. Return mixture to pot, add coconut milk or yogurt, heat up and serve. (I prefer using yogurt and I garnish it with chopped cilantro to serve.)

French Onion Soup
  • 4 large onions (yellow ones are better, slice them thinly)
  • 60g butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups chicken stock (in fact beef stock may taste better)
  • a few slices baguette
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Melt butter in a pan and cook the onions.
Add water and bring to the boil or until the onions are tender.
Add stock, simmer for 5 mins.
Grill baguette slices on both sides. Top with grated cheese, grill until cheese has melted.
Place toast in soup bowl and spoon soup over the top.
I like these soups because they are so easy to make.  They make hearty meals too, just add garlic rolls to go with pumpkin soup and toss some salad. 
Wallah......! Dinner is ready.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Lake St Clair, Tasmania

For about a ¼ of my life, I have camped out in the wilderness, really!

It is amazing how I got into camping and love to just touch the trees, marvel in between the pin-like leaves a dollop of rhododendron stretch themselves to reach the sky and watching the clouds pass all over my body at 7k feet above sea level. While I cook my dinner in a leech infested campsite, I can still silently listen to the river flows and where fishes grow to more than a foot long. I can walk in the rain and enjoy the drench of a mix between water from the sky with the mist from the moisture-laden montane forest, while clattering my teeth through the coldness of the wild. Sometimes it gets so cold that plunging myself into the river may be the better way to blend in the temperature. And when the sun is up, I find to my delight, a bed of Blue Lobelia growing in abundance, that would have added up to all the excitement for a tough long-hour trekking day.

Nature is always enticing and leaves me awestruck. While walking through a thick and dense montane forest, I can stare closely into all the little dew droplets hanging absorbingly onto a bunch of drooping mosses - and see my own face, in every droplet! It is so clear like a million mirrors hanging in the garden of Eden, I gasp over the clear untainted reflection, and what do I do? Well, reflect.....

The only place in the park that houses the reception, restaurant and shop.
The TassieLink bus with just a few of us onboard from Launceston, stopped at Lake St Clair Park , I looked out the window and saw the trees, I knew I had to alight. There was a pull, a strange feeling that I got to have it - a night in the park.

In the morning, I took the bus from Launceston TassieLink Bus Station, the bus was to head for Hobart via Lake St Clair. I thought that I had enough of the camping sites in Tasmania, I was ready to hit more urban cities instead, so even though I read a little about Lake St Clair, I wasn't that drawn to stay there. But somehow, the bus stopped at the Park Centre to pick up passengers. For the 10-min stop, I took a stroll to the nearby pavilion and I was hooked. I could sense that wilderness calling again, that raw, undisguised and unconcealed connection to mother, her gentleness in the air and her taming of the trees and her calmness in the water ....... oh, I got to stay here for the night.

Quickly, I went into the Park Centre and found that there were cabins available with a bed for me, I ran out to the bus, told the driver my intention, collected my rucksack from underneath, went back to the Centre and paid for the cabin room booking immediately. 

Farther across the lake is Cradle Mountain.
It took me a few minutes to walk to my cabin over at the bank of the lake. The place was like a huge camping ground where all the amenities were built around the dorm area. It felt like a self-sustaining village with water supply, bathrooms, kitchen with most of the kitchen utensils and cooking equipment. The cabin had 2 double deck bunk beds, for 4 tenants. The cabins were laid out like those squatters long-house in KL. The kitchen was adjacent to the cabins, while the bathrooms were situated farther away. 

It was chilly when sun down. With the toilet situated so far away from my cabin, I had to get up and walk to the toilet in the middle of the night. I climbed down from my bunk bed, put on a fleece, with my eyes half open, wasn't something I like to do if it weren't of my full bladder. Then, walked out quietly because it was so tranquil you can even hear your bunkmate's breathing, the whole place was well-lit so I could find my way even in my sleepiness. But it was the walk to the toilet that jolted me out of my sleepy head when I realized that in the dark, the Lake came to life in its mysticism and magic. I stood like a midget under those mighty trees, they twiddled softly to the gentle breeze, like fiddling something. I put my hands in my fleece pockets and for a while, I stood there and listened, and felt the quietness that was both alluring and seductive. The serenity led me back to my bed and I slept like a prince - it was the 1st day of the Chinese Lunar New Year 2007, and I had a comfortable bunk bed to sleep on!
A wonderful morning, waking up to a beautiful calm lake.

The next morning, I was up very early to take my time to sit at the lakeside. Doing nothing, just sat on a fallen log, think of nothing, just be the lake, and feel nothing but mother, the one who embraces all her creations.

Then, I thought I will have a scrumptious breakfast. I packed up and walked back to the Park Centre where the restaurant was serving buffet continental breakfast at AUD12 with free flow of coffee. So, I had 2 cups of yogurt, 2 slices of bread with fresh jam and a box of cereals. 

The cabin was AUD25 per person per night. Hot shower was available by inserting a coin token into the shower heater. The token was AUD1, available from the booking counter. I was given only 1 token when I checked in, so I can take one hot shower for 5 minutes after I slot in the token. The heater will automatically turn off after 5 minutes. Well, someone who did not take a bath gave me her token before she left, ahem.....so, that gave me a free hot shower the next morning, so so blessed, got to enjoy a hot shower........!