Friday, 31 December 2010

Singapore, Round 2 – Night Markets, Zoos & Cameras

By Rough Guy’d
Arriving back on Friday morning meant that I managed to spend the weekend with my cousin. It was almost like I had planned it that way... Anyway, so the weekend ended up being a nice relaxing one with the two of us getting to know each other better and basically spending some time together. It was just the two of us on Saturday but on Sunday we ended up meeting some of his friends and eating a local delicacy for dinner, claypot rice. After that we went out for a couple of drinks and I vowed to try the infamous Singapore Sling, a drink so popular even the locals didn’t know it existed. When the drink arrived, I felt almost embarrassed to drink it, being so fruity with a little umbrella served with the sweet alcoholic beverage.
After that we had a quick stroll through one of the local night markets. Now, if you ever get the chance to go, local night markets are where it is the most interesting. I’m not talking about the big gaudy night markets that are around that cater to tourists, where haggling is prerequisite to buying. No, what I’m talking about are the various night markets all over Asia that cater to the local populace, that sell inexpensive treats and little knick-knacks as well as fresh meat and produce (some of the meat so fresh, it’s still breathing). The main difference between the two different types of markets is that the local markets don’t try to push stuff onto you. You either want it or you don’t and as a result there is no hard sell and the prices are usually not worth haggling over (though it can be fun to try anyway).
After a boring (and wet) Monday, I went out to the zoo the next day. Even though I woke up early enough, by the time I arrived at the gates, it was already 11am (public transport may be cheap and convenient but it sure isn’t fast) and so my trip around the zoo was based around the three shows that they do at the zoo and overall I have to say it was a more than pleasant way to spend the day.
The rest of the weekdays were spent doing travel maintenance and clearing my camera of all the photos I took as well as making sure I had copies. I had heard from a cousin back home that most of her holiday photos were lost when she had her laptop stolen. To prevent that happening to me as well, I vowed to make two copies of all my photos (on DVD). One copy I would keep with me in my hand luggage bag and the other would be sent back home with an assortment of presents, letters and other things so that I don’t have to carry so much all the time and so that there would always be a second copy of all my photos.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Can You Carry Me?

By Pandora Poikilos

It has been exactly 99 days since I've had my surgery. For all the moments when I tell myself "seize the day and life is normal", I am given a few more small reminders that say, "Easy now, it's not so normal and not so much seizing." Peas and I have accustomed to calling my not-so-crowning glory, Stubbly and are now used to the days when Stubbly rules all. For instance, some days when getting out of bed is the biggest chore or when I feel so rotten that I need to keep telling myself all this is just a passing cloud that I'll be laughing at 10 years from now.

If you're up to it, you're up to it
This is probably the best advice ever given, by my neurosurgeon. (Well, for someone operating on my brain, it is good to know he has a wise line or two to impart.) Before the surgery, I had a long list of "when can I do this" and "when will it be okay to do that", which ranged from getting back to my computer, reading, exercising, laundry and so on. With continual stress being put on "not carrying heavy things and being careful of not stretching my right arm" as that's where the shunt tube runs down, he said for everything else, if you're up to it, you're up to it. You're the only one who knows. That is so true. I think on some days people who know me must think I'm utterly mad or just plain lazy to be lying down as much I do but try having a head wound that's healing, gives you a vibrating feeling when cold and has you in so much pain you can't bear to stand. So yes, now my rule is very simple. I start out my day with a set of things I want and need to do. But I also tell myself, if Stubbly gets in the way and I can't finish this list, the world won't end because of me.

The world really won't end because of me
A very close friend told me once, "Don't give yourself so much credit. You're not that famous and you're not that well known". Of course this was when a horribly bad untrue rumour was being spread about me and he came to the rescue of my very bruised heart and ego. But it's true. Abraham Lincoln died and the world moved on. Gandhi died and the world moved on. Princess Diana died and the world moved on. We all do some really great things and still we all make some really grave mistakes. We are not perfect. I am no exception to this rule. Yes, maybe (and hopefully), I'll one day become a well-known writer or even finally have my book published but I can only do what I can, the best I can before I too must move on and yes, the world will move on. Life's like that.

You just need to accept it
Like everyone else, I had materialistic dreams too. A well-known, well-traversed journalist or a high flying entrepreneur who would have her own kids, live a comfortable lifestyle and have enough for luxuries to look the part. Instead, I'm very bald, I have a very carefully planned expenditure plan that the slightest overspending might trigger a tsunami effect and I have a tube running from my brain to my stomach. But I have the ability to make my thoughts known by my writing, I have the opportunity to source out more writing jobs and more importantly, I have love. People who understand me, people who don't push me in the ways they want to go. People who accept and rarely expect. Do I have everything I want? Not at all. Do I have everything I need? Absolutely. I know things won't be easy. There'll be more days when I'm not sure what's happening with my body. Having my own child will also mean more monitoring by my neuro than my gynecologist. But if I do not accept these unique differences in my life and make the best out of them, what else is there to do?

People will say what they want to say
I read this line somewhere, "Funny thing about people, they'll believe that God is dead and Elvis is alive". Yes, somehow and I'm no professional but some people get their wires crossed badly. They'll believe something so silly for the sake of satisfying their comfort zone than to open their mind just a wee bit more and question what has just been said. When I was first diagnosed with PTC and the word got out (as it always conveniently will) people used to ask me "when are you going to die". Even when blog readers ask, my answer stays the same, "we are all going to die". It's like writing a sentence - the language, alphabets, length and meaning might be different but it'll have to end in a full stop at some point. People will have a million ways of looking at things, when they haven't gone through it. You can't please everyone. Really. Love the ones who love you, move on with everyone else.

Appreciate the pain you have
Now, on some days Stubbly gets so bad that I almost feel like I'm in a scene from Gulliver's Travels where my head is tied down with very thick rope and they are little people running all round my head banging and constructing away. The pain I felt as I came out of surgery and the pain I feel on the bad days I currently have, I do not expect everyone to understand nor do I expect people to run around my whims and fancies, although some quiet would be a great help. However, when someone says, "I have a bad headache" I may not snicker but then again, I may not be the best one to seek sympathy from either. It gets me very hot and bothered when I see some people who have controllable medical conditions like certain types of diabetes carry on like nothing is wrong because give me one day, just one, when there is a way to control CSF (brain) fluid or to know what triggers its increase, I'll try it all, with a smile on my face no matter how painful it is. Yes, I may seem very selfish when I cannot relate to pain that is much less than what I am going through but I also know that it is best to appreciate the pain that you do have because it might just be worse.

Don't take life for granted
I might be exaggerating but this phrase has easily been said a million times over. In different situations, in different languages, by different people from different generations and yet, we each only realise the value of this lesson when we are ourselves are faced with a shattering loss that life crudely offers us. I could go on but let me just allow you one last scenario about how precious life is. Imagine a bright eyed five year old playing with you and he circles your neck with grubby cheesecake coated fingers, rubs your nose with his and says, "Can you carry me?" Your heart breaks, more than once when you think of how you'll have to say no to him. That he's just a little too heavy for the tube in your body to bear, that you've just had a VP Shunt, that this is a major surgery, yes, there'll be some intense explaining that needs to be done. He'll either not understand what you tell him or he'll forget in less than five minutes and run off on his next conquest and come running back to you with another hug and even more love. He's a child with so much to give and a very short memory but how will it make you feel?

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

A Small Idea, Big Heart

By Chris McD

I'd like to tell you about Max. He's a guy who had an idea about his job as a social worker.

Max took over a section of Juvie Hall, for boys aged 14-17, convicted criminals all. I met those boys before Max did. I worked as a temp secretary for one day in the office there. Scary? Terrifying. Those boys were rough and tough and mean and there was no order at all - they stampeded at will. A year later, I heard that Max had taken over; I pitied him for having a job in hell.

The following Christmas, Max was on local TV offering food baskets. He said they didn't have much but were asking no questions and would be glad if people would come by to pick them up. The next day, the boys were on TV. Max had the boys giving away the food. One of the boys, looking kind of stunned, said, "Nobody ever thanked me before." Max said he wanted to give them what they had never had - a taste of why they might want to be good guys.

The Christmas Baskets became an institution; the press covered it every year and the boys began to have a good reputation. Today, under guidance from Max and an organization he founded, they are welcomed contributors to the community. Donations are plentiful and they have lots and lots of food baskets to give away.

It's been decades now since Max started this tradition. He's still inventing new ways to help others. He sees the same hardships that we all do - but he figures out ways for everybody to help everybody else.

Max turned a job in hell into positive community change. He brought imagination and creativity (but not, initially, money) to his job for the betterment of the lives of others. Is that the key to job satisfaction? If he can do it - so can we, maybe.

Blog-A-Licious Wednesdays - Weeks 9 & 10

So, we've we made it through our first 10 Blog-A-Licious weeks! And once again, here's yet another a collection of amazing blogs to be read and passed around. More to come in the coming weeks!

To participate in Blog-A-Licious Wednesdays, please leave your link at

And if you missed Week Nine, here's another look.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

I'm Having A Party

By Dr. Charles Garfield

If you have ever gone through a toll booth, you know that your relationship to the person in the booth is not the most intimate you'll ever have. It is one of life's frequent non-encounters: You hand over some money; you might get change; you drive off. I have been through every one of the 17 toll booths on the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge on thousands of occasions, and never had an exchange worth remembering with anybody.

Late one morning in 1984, headed for lunch in San Francisco, I drove toward one of the booths. I heard loud music. It sounded like a party, or a Michael Jackson concert. I looked around. No other cars with their windows open. No sound trucks. I looked at the toll booth. Inside it, the man was dancing.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"I'm having a party," he said.

"What about the rest of these people?" I looked over at other booths; nothing moving there.

"They're not invited."

I had a dozen other questions for him, but somebody in a big hurry to get somewhere started punching his horn behind me and I drove off. But I made a note to myself: Find this guy again. There's something in his eye that says there's magic in his toll booth.

Months later I did find him again, still with the loud music, still having a party.

Again I asked, "What are you doing?"

He said, "I remember you from the last time. I'm still dancing. I'm having the same party."

I said, "Look. What about the rest of the people."

He said. "Stop. What do those look like to you?" He pointed down the row of toll booths.

"They look like toll booths."

"Noooo imagination!"

I said, "Okay, I give up. What do they look like to you?"

He said, "Vertical coffins."

"What are you talking about?"

"I can prove it. At 8:30 every morning, live people get in. Then they die for eight hours. At 4:30, like Lazarus from the dead, they reemerge and go home. For eight hours, brain is on hold, dead on the job. Going through the motions."

I was amazed. This guy had developed a philosophy, a mythology about his job. I could not help asking the next question: "Why is it different for you? You're having a good time."

He looked at me. "I knew you were going to ask that," he said. "I'm going to be a dancer someday." He pointed to the administration building. "My bosses are in there, and they're paying for my training."

Sixteen people dead on the job, and the seventeenth, in precisely the same situation, figures out a way to live. That man was having a party where you and I would probably not last three days. The boredom! He and I did have lunch later, and he said, "I don't understand why anybody would think my job is boring. I have a corner office, glass on all sides. I can see the Golden Gate, San Francisco, the Berkeley hills; half the Western world vacations here and I just stroll in every day and practice dancing.

Abraham Lincoln said, "Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." I would tend to agree.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Done But Not Known

Author Unknown

"Can I see my baby?" the happy new mother asked. When the bundle was nestled in her arms and she moved the fold of cloth to look upon his tiny face, she gasped. The doctor turned quickly and looked out the tall hospital window. The baby had been born without ears. Time proved that the baby's hearing was perfect. It was only his appearance that was marred.

When he rushed home from school one day and flung himself into his mother's arms, she sighed, knowing that his life was to be a succession of heartbreaks.

He blurted out the tragedy. "A boy, a big boy ... called me a freak."

He grew up, handsome for his misfortune. A favorite with his fellow students, he might have been class president, but for that. He developed a gift, a talent for literature and music. "But you might mingle with other young people," his mother reproved him, but felt a kindness in her heart.

The boy's father had a session with the family physician. Could nothing be done? "I believe I could graft on a pair of outer ears, if they could be procured," the doctor decided.
Whereupon the search began for a person who would make such a sacrifice for a young man. Two years went by.

Then, "You are going to the hospital, Son. Mother and I have someone who will donate the ears you need. But it's a secret," said the father. The operation was a brilliant success, and a new person emerged. His talents blossomed into genius, and school and college became a series of triumphs.

Later he married and entered the diplomatic service. "But I must know!" He urged his father, "Who gave so much for me? I could never do enough for him." "I do not believe you could," said the father, "but the agreement was that you are not to know ... not yet."

The years kept their profound secret, but the day did come ... one of the darkest days that a son must endure. He stood with his father over his mother's casket. Slowly, tenderly, the father stretched forth a hand and raised the thick, reddish-brown hair to reveal that the mother -- had no outer ears.

"Mother said she was glad she never let her hair be cut," he whispered gently, "and nobody ever thought Mother less beautiful, did they?"

Real beauty lies not in the physical appearance, but in the heart. Real treasure lies not in what that can be seen, but what that cannot be seen. Real love lies not in what is done and known, but in what that is done but not known.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Bali – Dolphins, Airports, iPods & Lots Of Waiting

By Rough Guy’d
Woke up bright and early today as I had scheduled a trip to go dolphin watching. I had heard that it was one of the things to do in Lovina and is the most famous or infamous attraction depending on who you talk to and what day you went out. Still, as it wasn’t the main draw card for me to come here and a trip including breakfast only cost $7, I didn’t really care too much.

As it turned out, we struck out early getting to see yet another stunning sunrise as we sat in these little canoes, waiting for the dolphins to come in and start feeding. As the light progressively got clearer, we were treated to a sight of dolphins breaking the surf. Though we did get to see quite a few dolphins and I heard it was a good day, I had to say it was hard to very much as there was a fleet of canoes chasing after each sighting and you never got to see them too much unless they broke the surface.
The rest of the day I spent relaxing before I spent one more night drinking with my new friends before I headed back to Singapore the next day. My new friends took me back to the town of Kuta again where I could get a quick taxi ride back to the airport when. It was here that I lost my first piece of gear and one that I missed for quite a while. Somewhere between the hotel, my friend’s car, the bus office (not the public area) and the airport (under my feet), my Ipod went missing. To this day, I still have no idea how it went missing and my biggest regret involving this is that I haven’t been able to replace most of my music (it’s still on my computer at home).
The flight was scheduled to leave late at night and saw me arrive back in Singapore bright and early but not too early to catch an early train before the work morning madness. Arriving back at my cousin’s house, I was expecting everyone to be asleep as they were all night owls by nature but I was prepared as I was given a set of keys to let myself in. Unfortunately the set of keys did not include one that opened the chain on the inside and not wanting to wake anyone, I thought my aunt and uncle would be up momentarily to let me in.
So there I was, just back from Bali not having slept really for 24hrs or so, wondering why no one was waking up, getting more than a couple of curious looks from the neighbours. Eventually the next door neighbour who had seen me there on her way to do some shopping still saw me there on her way back invited me into her place to rest a bit better. By the time I got the nerve to knock loudly and wake someone up, I realised two things. The first was that my aunt and uncle were not in the house (they were staying elsewhere that day) and the second was that my cousin who normally didn’t finish work and go to bed until 4-5am was not too worried about me waking him up and was able to fall asleep faster than me, even after waking up. Suffice to say, I didn’t get up to much for the rest of the day.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Tell Me Whom You Love

Author Unknown

John Blanchard stood up from the bench, straightened his Army uniform, and studied the crowd of people making their way through Grand Central Station. He looked for the girl whose heart he knew, but whose face he didn't, the girl with the rose.

His interest in her had begun thirteen months before in a Florida library. Taking a book off the shelf he found himself intrigued, not with the words of the book, butwith the notes penciled in the margin. The soft handwriting reflected a thoughtful soul and insightful mind. In the front of the book, he discovered the previous owner's name, Miss Hollis Maynell. With time and effort he located her address. She lived in New York City. He wrote her a letter introducing himself and inviting her to correspond.

The next day he was shipped overseas for service in World War II. During the next year and one month the two grew to know each other through the mail. Each letter was a seed falling on a fertile heart. A romance was budding. Blanchard requested a photograph, but she refused. She felt that if he really cared, it wouldn't matter what she looked like.

When the day finally came for him to return from Europe, they scheduled their first meeting - 7:00 PM at the Grand Central Station in New York. "You'll recognize me," she wrote, "by the red rose I'll be wearing on my lapel." So at 7:00 he was in the station looking for a girl whose heart he loved, but whose face he'd never seen.

I'll let Mr. Blanchard tell you what happened:

A young woman was coming toward me, her figure long and slim. Her blonde hair lay back in curls from her delicate ears; her eyes were blue as flowers. Her lips and chin had a gentle firmness, and in her pale green suit she was like springtime come alive. I started toward her, entirely forgetting to notice that she was not wearing a rose. As I moved, a small, provocative smile curved her lips. "Going my way, sailor?" she murmured.

Almost uncontrollably I made one step closer to her, and then I saw Hollis Maynell. She was standing almost directly behind the girl. A woman well past 40, she had graying hair tucked under a worn hat. She was more than plump, her thick-ankled feet thrust into low-heeled shoes. The girl in the green suit was walking quickly away. I felt as though I was split in two, so keen was my desire to follow her, and yet so deep was my longing for the woman whose spirit had truly companioned me and upheld my own. And there she stood.

Her pale, plump face was gentle and sensible, her gray eyes had a warm and kindly twinkle. I did not hesitate. My fingers gripped the small worn blue leather copy of the book that was to identify me to her. This would not be love, but it would be something precious, something perhaps even better than love, a friendship for which I had been and must ever be, grateful. I squared my shoulders and saluted and held out the book to the woman, even though while I spoke I felt choked by the bitterness of my disappointment.

"I'm Lieutenant John Blanchard,and you must be Miss Maynell. I am so glad you could meet me; may I take you to dinner?"

The woman's face broadened into a tolerant smile. "I don't know what this is about, son," she answered, "but the young lady in the green suit who just went by, she begged me to wear this rose on my coat. And she said if you were to ask me out to dinner, I should go and tell you that she is waiting for you in the big restaurant across the street. She said it was some kind of test!"

It's not difficult to understand and admire Miss Maynell's wisdom. The true nature of a heart is seen in its response to the unattractive. "Tell me whom you love," Houssaye wrote, "And I will tell you who you are."

The "W" In Christmas

Author Unknown

Last December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peaceful experience. I had cut back on nonessential obligations - extensive card writing, endless baking, decorating, and even overspending. Yet still, I found myself exhausted, unable to appreciate the precious family moments, and of course, the true meaning of Christmas.

My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season for a six year old. For weeks, he'd been memorizing songs for his school's "Winter Pageant." I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd be working the night of the production. Unwilling to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his teacher. She assured me there'd be a dress rehearsal the morning of the presentation. All parents unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then. Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise.

On the morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down. Around the room, I saw several other parents quietly scampering to their seats. As I waited, students were led into the room. Each class, accompanied by their teacher, sat cross-legged on the floor. Then, each group, one by one, rose to perform their song. Because the public school system had long stopped referring to the holiday as "Christmas," I didn't expect anything other than fun, commercial entertainment - songs of reindeer, Santa Claus, snowflakes and good cheer.

So, when my son's class rose to sing, "Christmas Love," I was slightly taken aback by its bold title. Nicholas was aglow, as were all of his classmates, adorned in fuzzy mittens, red sweaters, and bright snowcaps upon their heads. Those in the front row- center stage - held up large letters, one by one, to spell out the title of the song. As the class would sing "C is for Christmas," a child would hold up the letter C. Then, "H is for Happy," and on and on, until each child holding up his portion had presented the complete message, "Christmas Love."

The performance was going smoothly, until suddenly, we noticed her; a small, quiet, girl in the front row holding the letter "M" upside down - totally unaware her letter "M" appeared as a "W". The audience of 1st through 6th graders snickered at this little one's mistake. But she had no idea they were laughing at her, so she stood tall, proudly holding her "W".

Although many teachers tried to shush the children, the laughter continued until the last letter was raised, and we all saw it together. A hush came over the audience and eyes began to widen. In that instant, we understood the reason we were there, why we celebrated the holiday in the first place, why even in the chaos, there was a purpose for our festivities. For when the last letter was held high, the message read loud and clear:

"C H R I S T W A S L O V E"

And, I believe, He still is.

What Is Greater Than God?

Yes, obviously the holidays are bringing out the riddler in me. Here's Christmas Riddle 2. Once again, leave your answers in the comment section and we'll see who gets it right. A clue? This also has seven alphabets. Merry Christmas!

What is greater than God,

More evil than the Devil,

The poor have it,

The rich need it,

If you eat it, you will die?

Two Babes In A Manger

Author Unknown

In 1994, two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics (based on biblical principles) in the public schools. They were invited to teach at prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments and a large orphanage. About 100 boys and girls who had been abandoned,abused, and left in the care of a government-runp rogram were in the orphanage.

They relate the following story in their own words:

It was nearing the holiday season, 1994, time for our orphans to hear for the first time, the traditional story of Christmas. We told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem. Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where the baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger.

Throughout the story, the children and orphanage staff sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word. Completing the story, we gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins I had brought with me. No colored paper was available in the city.

Following instructions, the children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel, cut from a worn-out nightgown an American lady was throwing away as she left Russia, were used for the baby's blanket. A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt we had brought from the United States. The orphans were busy assembling their manger as I walked among them to see if they needed any help.

All went well until I got to one table where little Misha sat. He looked to be about 6 years old and had finished his project. As I looked at the little boy's manger, I was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger.

Quickly, I called for the translator to ask the lad why there were two babies in the manger. Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at this completed manger scene, the child began to repeat the story very seriously. For such a young boy, who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related the happenings accurately-until he came to the part where Mary put the baby Jesus in the manger.

Then Misha started to ad-lib. He made up his own ending to the story as he said,
"And when Maria laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no mamma and I have no papa, so I don't have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him I couldn't, because I didn't have a gift to give him like everybody else did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept him warm, that would be a good gift. So I asked Jesus, "If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift?"
And Jesus told me, "If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me."
"So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him - for always."

As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed.

The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon nor abuse him, someone who would stay with him - FOR ALWAYS.

I've learned that it's not what you have in your life, but who you have in your life that counts.

Friday, 24 December 2010

A Baby's Touch

By Deborah Linne

During the business of this holiday season, my one year old daughter caught a cold that wouldn't seem to let go of her. She had it especially rough at night when she had coughing fits. Being a first time, nervous mom, I brought her to bed with me after a particularly bad cough.

As we were drifting to sleep, she wiggled around and her hand fell across my face, brushed my cheek and rested there. I felt as if an electric current was running through my body.

Simultaneously, a picture came to mind of a most beautifully wrapped gift -- gold foil with delightful maroon ribbons. I realized that God had just sent a wonderful message and gift to me about the things I should be focusing on this Christmas.

Amidst all the buying, decorating, and entertaining, I was shown through the simple touch of my child the most precious gift of all.

My baby's touch, this year in 1998, must not be so unlike the touch of another precious child 2000 years ago.

Did his mother feel the same way when his hand brushed against her cheek? His life was to touch the world and affect all of us. Hopefully, with my gentle guidance and love, my baby's touch will affect others as she grows.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

There Is No Santa Claus?

By Carol Laycock

Grandma is ninety-eight this Christmas. In spite declining health, she forges on with characteristic determination, hope, and wit. We thought we might lose her last October - how many more heart attacks can her frail body take? - but, true to form, Grandma rallied again. "I couldn't miss a Christmas party, now could I!" she quipped on the way home from the hospital.

"No, Grandma," I laughed "It wouldn't be a party without you."

I remember my first Christmas party with Grandma. I was just a kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered. "Even dummies know that!"

My grandma is not the gushy kind, never was. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her world-famous cinnamon buns.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me.

"No Santa Claus!" she snorted. "Ridiculous! Don't believe it. That rumour has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad. Now, put on your coat, and let's go."

"Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my second cinnamon bun.

"Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days. 'Take this money," she said, "and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.

I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself.

The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for.

I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbours, the kids at school, the people who went to my church. I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobbie Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's grade-two class.

Bobbie Decker didn't have a coat. I knew that because he never went out for recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobbie Decker didn't have a cough, and he didn't have a coat. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobbie Decker a coat.

I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that.

"Is this a Christmas present for someone?" the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down.

"Yes," I replied shyly. "It's ... for Bobbie."

The nice lady smiled at me. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat in Christmas paper and ribbons, and write, "To Bobbie, From Santa Claus" on it - Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobbie Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially one of Santa's helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobbie's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk Then Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going."

I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his doorbell and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma. Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobbie.

Forty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my grandma, in Bobbie Decker's bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumours about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were: ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Blog-A-Licious Wednesdays - Weeks 8 & 9

So, we've we made it past our first set of 100 Blog-A-Licious blogs. And once again, here's yet another a collection of amazing blogs to be read and passed around! More to come in the coming weeks!

To participate in Blog-A-Licious Wednesdays, please leave your link at

And if you missed Week Eight, here's another look.

A Snowy Walk

Yes, so the other half is starting to have a repeated fascination for animals in the snow, not too sure why but needless to say, it is a beautiful view that you don't get everyday.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Free 2011 Calendar

By Pandora Poikilos

I've heard somewhere that necessity is the mother of invention, very true. I've been having a bit of trouble getting a free printable 2011 calendar that I like, so far.

I've created one for myself (something simple enough to print and stick on the fridge) but if anyone else would like to use it, feel free to do so.

It's free, of course. There are 2 pages, 6 months in one page with space to scribble birthdays and important dates.

And if something better does come along or if anyone else would like to join in and share their version, do leave a comment.

Happy holidays & Happy New Year!

Bali - Lovina

By Rough Guy'd

One thing that I also discovered as a side effect of diving was that when you go to bed, you have the best sleep ever and as I woke up from one of the most refreshing sleeps I've ever had, I set about exploring Lovina a little bit more.

I had heard of a nearby Buddhist temple that warranted a visit and hiring a motorbike taxi, I headed there and explored the area.

By this point, I had visited six temples in Bali, a few in Singapore and even more in Brunei so temples for me were seen in a different light. I wasn't really looking at them as a photo op or what precious artifacts that they held but also the ambience of the place. Why was a particular place chosen as the location of a temple, why did people come here to pray and worship. Coming from a non-religious family with many strictly religious friends including my godmother, I was always open to different types of religion and I have always seen the need of it for others but have never felt a particularly strong need of it for myself. As I was sitting at the temple complex soaking in the atmosphere of the place as it was, surrounded by hills and lush green flora, I felt a certain connection, a level of tranquility that transcends a single religion.

With my mind completely refreshed and cleansed, I headed off for another of the local area’s famous spots, Lovina’s hot spring pools and my first chance to refresh and cleanse my body with hot water in over a week. The area was broken down into three pools, a hot pool, a pressure pool and a swimming pool and I spent a great deal of time here. In particular the pressure pool which worked by having a series of artificial waterfalls dropping down a great distance so that it massages your shoulders and neck was particularly enjoyed and the price for admission was so low as to be negligible as most of the patrons were locals.

That night I met up again some of my new friends from Bali and we went out for a night of drinking. I found this to be a lot more fun than my time drinking at Kuta as the atmosphere was a lot more relaxed and easy-going and we all had fun talking about our lives and how they differed from each other. After a few drinks, we went dancing with some of the local girls, most of whom had not seen a foreigner before, let alone could speak any English which made communication with them limited to body language or one of my friends acting as a translator. Surprisingly fun all things considered.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Bali - Scuba Diving

By Rough Guy’d
I arrived in Lovina bright and early after the morning climb down the mountain. Whatever delights the town may hold, I was only really interested in seeing the inside of my eyelids and I ended up resting most of the day. After I woke up, I had dinner with my new friends and spurred on by them, I decided to try my hand at scuba diving the next day.
Now, while the idea of scuba diving is nothing too scary or bad, I was petrified and for more than one reason. Firstly, if you go into the water you should ideally be able to swim. As I put it, I can flounder for a bit, splash a bit of water over the place and sort of get myself to my final destination with great expenditure of energy. To say I was a weak swimmer was a bit of an understatement. On top of this, I have a mild form of claustrophobia. Tight spaces worry me a little bit and being underwater, diving as I would be gives you a very strong feeling of being in a tight confining space, even if you are in a body of water that covers the majority of the planet. However, as I said in my very first blog, this trip was a way for me to try many new things.
11th of May and this was the big day for me. I had planned to go to Menjangan Island to do a cliff dive, considered by many to be the most beautiful in Bali and a mouth-dropping experience. The reality was that the couple who were to go diving at the same time as me came down with a stomach bug and had to cancel. As a result, instead of doing a cliff wall dive, I ended up joining another group and went to Tulamben and diving at a wreck.
Now, I could use a lot of flowery writing to tell you that all my fears were unfounded and that once I hit the water, it was like second nature. But this is real life and not a fairy tale or an ill-concealed attempt at a scuba diving advert. The diving took me a while to get and basically the first tank of air was wasted as I struggled to get used to the feel of the regulator in my mouth. Imagine trying to breathe through your mouth with your lips slightly parted, trying to draw in a deep breath every time and the air tasting slightly different and you’ll get an idea of how alien this was to me at first. Coupled with actually going under the water, well I was feeling a bit forlorn at lunch even though I had finally got the hang of the regulator in my mouth.
Now if the first dive of the day was a bomb, the second dive of the day was the opposite and finally getting down under the water to about 10m and seeing the wreck with all the growth and fishes swimming around made it all worthwhile and my only regret was that I didn’t have enough time in Bali to dive more than this.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

A Christmas Visitor

The robin (who has been named Robin, incidentally) who has had Peas all a-flutter. Robin's been making continual appearances two days in a row, sometimes boldly chirping for food and at others making sure everyone knows he's around. 

Friday, 17 December 2010

A Child's Letter To Santa

Author Uknown

Snowflakes softly falling, upon your window they play.
Your blanket is snug around you, into sleep you drift away.

I bend to gently kiss you, when I see that on the floor,
There's a letter neatly written, I wonder whom it's for.

I quietly unfold it, making sure you're still asleep.
It's a Christmas list for Santa; one my heart will always keep.

It started just as always, with the toys seen on TV,
A new watch for your father and a winter coat for me.

But as my eyes read on, I could see that deep inside,
There were many things you wished for, that your loving heart would hide.

You asked if your friend Molly could have another Dad.
It seems her father hits her, and it makes you very sad.

Then you asked dear Santa, if the neighbor down the street,
Could find a job that he might have some food, and clothes, and heat.

You saw a family on the news, whose house had blown away.
"Dear Santa, send them just one thing, a place where they can stay."

"And Santa, those four cookies, that I left you for a treat,
Could you take them to the children, who have nothing else to eat?"

"Do you know that little bear I have, the one I love so dear?
I'm leaving it for you to take to Africa this year".

"And as you fly your reindeer, on this night of Jesus' birth,
Could your magic bring to everyone, goodwill and peace on earth?"

"There's one last thing before you go, so grateful I would be,
If you'd smile at Baby Jesus, in the manger by our tree."

I pulled the letter close to me, I felt it melt my heart.
Those tiny hands had written what no other could impart.

"And a little child shall lead them," was whispered in my ear,
As I watched you sleep on Christmas Eve, while Santa Claus was here.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Giving At Christmas

By Dan Strickland

It was the first Sunday in December and we were in our Sunday School to learn about a family that had been referred from social services that was in real need of clothes and food.

Our director began to describe what he saw when he and the social worker had paid the family a visit earlier in the week. The mother was working two jobs trying to feed and clothe three children. He told how the mother said that she had tried all year to save money for Christmas presents but it was just not there. All her money was going to just buy food and she couldn't remember when she had bought clothes for her children last.

As he continued to describe what he saw, my mind began to remember all the Christmas's that I had as a child. I could still smell all the mixtures of different things drifting from the kitchen where my mom was cooking. The sight of a big Christmas tree with presents piled all around and the looks on each of the faces of my family as we opened Christmas presents. I just couldn't imagine what it would be like to have a Christmas that was being described to us. What -- no food, no presents, no family gatherings and no Christmas tree?

The director said he would like to take up an offering and anything that was received would be used to help make this the best Christmas ever. As the plate began to make its way around I opened my wallet only to find one dollar. I wanted to give more but I just didn't have it. I passed the plate on by without putting anything in. As I started to put my wallet back up, I suddenly remember that the week before Thanksgiving my wife and I had gone on a trip with some friends. When I go on trips I always try to hide some reserve money in my wallet, just in case we need something.

I opened my wallet and sure enough the money was still there. Folded behind a picture was one $100 bill. I thought for a second and then realized that they needed it far worse than I did. As we were going to our classes I stopped the director and put the money in the plate. He looked shocked and said are you sure you don't want any change? I told him that they need it more than I did and that he better take it before I changed my mind.

Well, as that Sunday went on I soon forgot what had happened that morning. At lunch that day my family and I had gone to the local restaurant to eat. My in-laws were already there and soon were finished eating before we were. As they were leaving, they stopped by our table to say hi and just chat.

Just then my mother-in-law turned, reached out her hand as to give me something and said "We had a yard sale yesterday and I sold some things that I realized belonged to you."

She then stuck some money in my hand. I thanked her and as she walked away I opened my hand.

Chills ran up and down my spine as I stared at exactly the same amount and exactly the same denomination bill that I had given earlier... one $100 bill!

How the power of God was so real, I will never forget that Christmas.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Bali - Mount Badur

By Rough Guy’d
Before we went to Mt Badur, we had a whole evening to spend first. The climb, I was advised, was done at night and each party required their own guide as it was strictly regulated as they wanted to limit the numbers of climbers. The main reason it was done at night was because of the burning heat of daytime and because one of the main highlights was the morning sunrise. This meant that we would be making for the mountain at 2am that night leaving us a whole evening to spend before a quick couple of hours sleep.

As well as they touristy art stuff my friend sold back in Malaysia, she also did a bit on the side, arranging tours for Malaysians in conjunction with her local friends in Bali. I got to see examples of this first hand as I spent that evening visiting some hotels and resorts with the pair of them. While this alone doesn’t sound very exciting, it was a new experience for me and then when I saw the hotels, I was gobsmacked. These were some of the nicest, fanciest hotels I’d seen with one of them, the Ubud hanging gardens having almost exclusive use of a gorgeous valley with a 24hr manned outdoor elevator and each room having three personal baths/pools to use.
After all this, we enjoyed a dinner of Balinese suckling pig before I headed off to bed for a very early start. While this delicacy can be enjoyed all over Bali (but not the rest of Indonesia as the rest of Indonesia is very strictly Muslim), I doubt I would have been able to both find and then order a dish of this quality without the help of my new friends.
10th of May and I woke and checked out at 2am as planned. Not surprisingly the roads were relatively empty and we reached the mountain without incident. This was the one time I was glad that I had packed anything heavier than a t-shirt. There was a base camp of sorts there, where other tourists and their guides met up. The proffered cup of coffee there was gladly accepted, even if I usually never drank the stuff and I was also offered some and stuff. One of the things I’ve learned is even if there are people capable of translating for me what I just ate, sometimes ignorance was bliss.
Now the thing I will mention about the climb up Mt Badur is that it is surprisingly simple. It would have to be as you walk in near complete darkness for most of it (except for a flashlight) and no climbing equipment is needed. Even so, it was strangely uphill all the way and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit puffed. It was all worth it when I reached the top though, or so I thought except the first breath of fresh air I received at the top smelled an awful lot like second-hand smoke. Thanks a lot noisy German tourists. When the sunrise came up, it was at that point that I realised it was all worth it and after enjoying it as long as I could, followed up by watching some monkeys who were obviously far too used to humans, I made my way down the mountain again with my guide. Next stop, Lovina.

Blog-A-Licious Wednesdays - Weeks 7 & 8

Last week, we made it to our first set of 100 Blog-A-Licious blogs. And so, once again, yet another a collection of amazing blogs to be read and passed around! More to come in the coming weeks!

To participate in Blog-A-Licious Wednesdays, please leave your link at

And if you missed Week Seven, here's another look.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Thank You!

When Peace from Pieces started out in May 2010, the theme was always set on inspiration and was meant to be a resource to keep me writing while I waded through some very deep waters.

On 24 July, when it recorded 524 hits, I thought, "when will I ever be able to get it to move along and have blog comments and hits like other blogs I had seen". Ah well, 20,000 hits later I am thankful for all of you who have taken the time to read, comment and lend your support to this blog.

The last significant milestone we hit was on 22 November with 15,000 hits.

But a lot has happened since then.

There's a new e-publication in town - Essentials For Your Dream Wedding

There's a traveler who is sharing his thoughts, dishing out the real deal - Rough Guy'd Travels

Then, there's a cause that needs much support and only 2 minutes (or less) of your time - A Pledge For Responsible Social Media Users

There's the upcoming event that needs much more blabbing and sharing - Rare Disease Day 2011

and of course, to the Netizens who blog and the world who reads them, we listed our first 100 Blog-A-Licious Blogs.

Here's to more thoughts being jotted down, more inspirations shared and of course more hits, views, reads and comments to come. I thank you all very, very much! Happy holidays!

Bali - Sukawati & Surprises

By Rough Guy’d
So the Malaysian girl and I went to Sukawati to buy some arts and crafts. For her, it was a business transaction but for me it was a chance to experience something that I wouldn’t normally be able to. Other than having a rental car, Angie was also able to speak the native language to the locals (Malay) and seeing the bustling sprawling market was an experience in itself. Angie even convinced me that it would be a good idea to buy some scarves to use as presents for either family or people that I met along the way and at $3USD each, it was a great way to thank someone with something better than money.
Unfortunately it was during this time that I experienced my first (but not last) bit of bad news. This one didn’t happen to me directly and at the time, I wasn’t too sure if I was being played or not. What ended up happening was that the girl ended up being pick pocketed and ended up losing quite a substantial sum of money. We tried to report it to the police and everything but in the end, nothing much was achieved and we left empty-handed. Now, I was unmolested as I was extremely careful with my money and feeling sorry for her, I offered to lend her some money.
Now, looking back, I was very trusting of her but I don’t think I’d have done things any differently. She could have been using this to try to fleece me but I didn’t even look at it as that. I gave her enough money for her to finish up her time in Bali and go home, hoping to be able to bump into her when I made my way into Malaysia eventually and get the money back. I figured at the time that if I was played, it wasn’t for much and if I wasn’t, then I’ve done a very good thing and while I don’t really believe in karma, I do believe in making the world a better place however you can.
As it turned out, I needn’t have worried as she was quite willing and happy to give me details of her passport and address in Malaysia and after going our separate ways during the afternoon (she was meeting some local business contacts and I wanted to walk around Ubud some more), we met back up. In a stroke of sheer good fortune, she ended up bumping into her cousin from Malaysia here. Neither knew the other was here and her cousin ended up giving her far more money than I did, letting her continue trying to buy more art and repaying me instantly.
Now, while I didn’t believe in karma, karma sure believed me me, or at least my Malaysian friend and her local friend did. As a way of saying thanks to me, they offered to take me to Mt Badur and then on to Lobina for free. Neither the mountain nor the town were on my original plan but who was I to say no to an offer like that. However the night was not yet done as I was to find out...

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Bali - Elephant Safari Park

By Rough Guy’d
Later that night, I took the time to see a Kechak dance. While I could have looked it up on the Internet to find out what this was, I thought it would be more fun to go in blind so I turned up with nothing more than a liberal coating of mozzie spray, camera and an open mind.
Granted I knew this dance was done for the benefit of the tourists rather than some attempt to keep alive a centuries old tradition but sometimes you just can’t avoid these things. Looking back at my experiences during my travels, while I can’t say any of these tourist traps were the highlight of my trip, overall, my trip would not have been the same if I had gone out of my way to avoid them and more often than not, by partaking in these little artificial tastes of tourism, I found something or someone far more worthwhile of my time as would prove to be the case the following day.
Today I decided to do something a little bit different for me. I decided to splurge out and went to the Elephant Safari park. Now this was a big chunk of my cost with the price of admission at $53USD but apparently this place attracted international celebrities (they have their own helicopter pad) and profits went toward looking after elephants (the movie Operation Dumbo drop was based on them). To put this into context, my room including breakfast only cost me $5USD. Now the park was a fair way out from anywhere else so the only option I had was to get a taxi motorbike to the place and then have the taxi wait an hour or two for me to be finished. Already stinging a bit from the price of admission and riding one of the Elephants, I decided to release the driver and make my own way back.
The park was pretty good and my timing for once was impeccable with a pair of baby elephants recently allowed out to see the visitors. I even managed to get a ride on an elephant (albeit a bit contrived) which all things considered wasn’t too bad. Afterwards there was even a little show with the elephants and they taught us why each elephant had their own mahud (trainer) and why they had to look after them like they did. After about five hours or so, I was kind of glad that I released the driver, especially when I managed to hitchhike with a Japanese gentleman in his four wheel drive.
Finally to cap off this day, I caught another show, this time the Legong and Barong dance. I found this one to be more interesting though the first one involved dancing around a fire. Most interestingly the biggest influence on my time in Bali came about as I was heading home after the show. I saw a cute-looking girl staring at a poster and I struck up a conversation with her. It turned out that she was from Malaysia and she was in Bali, her second home to buy art to sell home. The girl (I’ll try not to name names) invited me to tag along and join her if I wanted as she was going to another town for the day that was less aimed at ripping off tourists.
Little did I know that by accepting, I would be making another friendship that would lead me to more experiences that I never expected...

Friday, 10 December 2010

Bali - Beyond Ubud

By Rough Guy’d

The tour via motorbike took me to four different temples and an amazing gorge. While I possibly could have navigated this myself, with a lack of any real street signs or maps, I probably would have got lost quickly. There weren’t even signs to go back to the town or lights out in the countryside so could get quite dangerous.
Now Bali is unique among Indonesia for being predominately Hindi rather than Muslim and the temples that I was shown helped emphasise they were all Hindi with a small nod to Buddhism and Muslim outside the main complexes. Now, considering how hot it was every day, I was walking around in a t-shirt and shorts, my usual attire for most of the trip. However, this was not allowed in the temple complexes and as a result, you had to wear a sarong to cover your legs.
Now when I think of a sarong, I imagine a girl in a bikini with a thin, slightly transparent piece of silk wrapped around her legs, off to the beach. The idea that I had to wear a sarong as well, made me do a double-take but I quickly realised that sarongs were different for men and women and that in Bali at least, a sarong was a normal piece of attire.
While the first temple lent me a sarong, it was in a rather plain shade of crimson that wouldn’t have turned any heads while I was there but made the most shocking holiday pics I could think of. So by the second temple, I went to one of the many hawkers just outside the temple and bought myself my own sarong. It was a beautifully-made piece of art with gold-coloured embroidery depicting elephants. I ended up using this as a sheet for sleeping in many locations thereafter as well as not all places had sheets.
The places were amazing and even though they were old ruins for the most part, there was a certain tranquillity there that you could feel even through the crowds and hawkers. It was around this time that I saw the famous stepped rice paddies of Bali and these were to become a lasting image for me.
The gorge that my guide took me to see was amazing as well and he was full of interesting information and pointed out to me the effects of deforestation on one part of it which led to massive erosion and the sight of a mountain slowly crumbling down. While it was sad to see, it was also good to know that the locals also noted this and hopefully this constant reminder of clear cutting (that Indonesia has a reputation for) would serve to stop people from doing this though with the amount of corruption their government has, I highly doubted this.

Rare Disease Day 2011

Millions Around World To Observe Rare Disease Day

The last day of February has been designated as World Rare Disease Day to call attention to rare diseases, which affect nearly 30 million Americans and countless others around the world, as an important global public health concern.

“People with rare diseases remain a medically underserved population in every country,” said Peter L. Saltonstall, president and CEO of the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD), which is sponsoring Rare Disease Day in the U.S. “This day will bring together patients and families around the globe who are dealing with some very challenging issues.”

The coalition, being coordinated by NORD, includes patient organizations, professional medical societies, government agencies, medical researchers, and pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

Rare Disease Day 2011 activities in the U.S. will include creating a “video encyclopedia” of two-minute videos about many of the nearly 7,000 rare diseases. Also, patients and others will help NORD create a database of physician experts on various rare diseases. In addition, state and municipal proclamations in honor of the day will be sought, and there will be a drive to enlist support for a new Rare and Neglected Diseases Caucus in the U.S. Congress.

A rare disease is one that affects fewer than 200,000 Americans. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are nearly 7,000 such diseases affecting nearly 30 million Americans.

“More than half of the people who have rare diseases are children,” Saltonstall said. “Challenges faced by patients and their families include delay in getting an accurate diagnosis, few treatment options, and difficulty finding medical experts. Many rare diseases have no approved treatment. Insurance may not cover treatments that aren’t approved. Also, treatments for rare diseases tend to be more expensive than those for common diseases.”

In 1983, the Orphan Drug Act was passed by Congress to create financial incentives for companies to develop treatments for rare diseases. Since then, more than 350 “orphan” (for rare diseases) drugs and biologics have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FDA estimates that from 11 to 14 million Americans benefit from these products, but that still leaves more than 15 million Americans with diseases for which there is no approved treatment.

This will be the fourth annual Rare Disease Day. The concept was launched in 2008 by EURORDIS, NORD’s counterpart in Europe. Last year, EURORDIS asked NORD to host Rare Disease Day in the U.S. In 2010, Rare Disease Day was observed in 46 nations around the world. The observance is always on the last day of February.

For more information about Rare Disease Day go to

Thank You - Food Seasonality Survey

From fresh foods to tinned foods, we heard from people who've been snowed in to people who live with sunshine all year round, Morocco to Malaysia, and of course the United Kingdom.

A very warm thank you to all those who helped out with the survey 'Food Seasonality - Are You Affected?'

Your support and feedback is very much appreciated!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Bali - Ubud & Beyond

By Rough Guy’d
While partying from sun down to sun up and then sleeping from sun up to sun down may be the epitome of a perfect holiday for some people, I had other plans and with that mindset, I decided to head inland and away from the partygoers. I decided on the town of Ubud, probably the second most favourite location for tourists but the focus turned from partying to arty crafts.
It was this point that I learned that I really liked travelling like a local rather than a tourist. Basically this just meant that I’m crammed into a tightly-packed bus with lots of other people rather than taking an over-priced taxi or scooter. It was even more of an eye opener than when I first came here as I saw more and more people living a simple rustic life compared to what I was used to anyway. Later in my trip, I would see far more rustic village life but this was my first real taste and the memory has remained with me just as keenly.
I arrived early in the afternoon at Ubud and after checking in and resting a bit, decided to walk around the town. One thing that really struck me as I tucked into a delicious dinner of nasi goreng with pineapple juice followed by green pancake and ice cream was that most of the food in Bali was quite different to what I was used to. By the very nature of the place, things like prepackaged foods and drinks were really only in Bali to serve foreigners and that the people of the island were more used to freshly produced foods and drinks. You could taste it as the foods were made with simple fresh ingredients, they really didn’t need much to make it into some of the best food you’ve ever eaten and freshly squeezed juices were so cheap and nice that you couldn’t make it yourself for that price at home.
It was during this meal that I ended up chatting to two other tourists who were in the same restaurant. It turned out that they were from other parts of Indonesia here for a holiday and we chatted together for the rest of the night. As it turned out, I became friends with them and since then still stay in contact with them on a regular basis.
Thursday morning and along with freshly prepared pancakes and fruit, I discovered the second way that the guesthouses made money, by offering one-to-one motorcycle tours of the nearby area. While I had learned to be a bit suspicious of add-on offers, I also had to accept that sometimes there are no alternatives to this type of a tour and as long as their prices were reasonable compared to what others were offering, it was always a good idea to support your own guesthouse.
One of the things that I loved at this time was my belt pack. An over-sized pack that sits on my waist making me look every bit a tourist but necessary to keep the really important things safe such as passport, wallet and of course my rough guide travel book. The thing that made mine a little bit special was that the top of it can unzip open to make me a little daypack backpack and this meant I bring other stuff such as water and as I discovered later, a sarong.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

100 Blog-A-Licious Blogs!

By Pandora Poikilos

After 7 weeks, of hopping around, blog hopping that is, I proudly present the first 100 Blog-A-Licious blogs!

The Blog-A-Licious blog list is updated every Wednesday. To participate or be included, please submit a comment at Blog-A-Licious

In the meantime, read more about
A Michelicious Story
A Walk To Remember
A Young Marketer's World
Angry Lurker
Ang Sarap

Anne's Food
Are You Dressing Up Or Dressing Down?
At Witter's End
Auto Prosper - Self Improvement
Babe In The City

Battered Not Broken
Behind The Goal Line
Belly In Hand
Books To Read

Burberry Cheesecake
Burn Bright
Canny Chic
Cards By Linda
Chelsea Fish

Christopher Dumouchel
Clearance Rack Hero
Confessions Of A Recovering Cynic
Confessions Of An All Star Cheer Mom

Cookie Master
Cupcake Project
Cyn's Coupons
Designer's Basement Magazine
Encyclopedia Of Counted Sheep

Fantasy Pen
Food Lovers' Primal Palate
For Indonesia
French Cooking For Dummies

Getting Fit For Fifty
Glitzi Beads
Gotta Great Gift
Healthy Life Ideas

Holes In My Soles
Hope Leslie Single
I Like Cheese
Incredible Sikkim
In Review - Stuff & Things

It's Free & Fun
Johnson's Journey
Karlota Blogs
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Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The Pledge Of Responsible Social Media Users

By Pandora Poikilos

Written On Tuesday, 7 December 2010
Updated On Tuesday, 7 December 2010

- I respect someone else's privacy, even if I have not met them before.
- I do not give out my personal, contact and financial information to people I do not know.
- Child pornography is unacceptable and I will not use Social Media to obtain this.
- People have feelings, I do not use Social Media to embarrass or hurt them.
- I am a capable person, I do not need to plagiarize my work through Social Media.
- I do not take things for granted and read the terms of a condition of a site or purchase that I join or make online.

Take the "Pledge of Responsible Social Media Users" today and be a voice towards keeping our cyber world safe. Leave your name or initial (and your blog link) at the comment section to show your support for this cause, join us at, our Facebook group or Facebook Page. Feel free to share your views or personal experiences on this issue.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Play Me That Tune

My Top 10 Favourite Songs
By Pandora Poikilos

I've had a blastedly horrible week, although my spelling seems to be getting better and I'm able to get more done, at the same time, as my head wounds heal there is a constant buzz in my head which has a rousing similarity to a mobile on vibrate mode, that makes me want to say, please pick up that mobile and then I realise, wait a minute, that's no mobile, that's my head. So, yes, I still have these little reminders to keep me from sprinting ahead and remembering that we all need to slow down, recovering from brain surgery or not.

Between driving Peas up some very high walls and having very little sleep, I've had to find ways of keeping myself sane and have done something most people do. I listened to my favourite songs. With my MP3 player plugged in and the rest of the world shut out, I realised that some of these songs were tunes I've been turning to for ages. And as you all know by now, being the lyrics junkie that I am, each song holds a very special meaning to me. Maybe, it'll do the same for you.

10 - Chasing Cars
Performed By Snow Patrol
Never mind that the lead singer is fly-me-to-the-moon hot, this is a song that literally makes you want to forget the rest of the world and if you have company to do it with, then all the better. As with anything in life, the ingredient that makes it all worthwhile is, support and this song speaks exactly about that. Whether you want to chase dreams or cars, I'll stay by your side, hold your hand and do it with you.

9 - Stay
Performed By Sugarland / Ronan Keating
When you hear it the first time, it's meaning is pretty straightforward - it is a choice between two lovers. One line, though, changed this for me - "I've given you my best, why does he get the best of you?" Sometimes, and I think we're all guilty of this, we become so focused on the past and how we could have made it better, we keep holding off on the present and indirectly the future. There's always the sentiment that if you do A, then we'll eventually get to B. Before long, we've worked so long on fixing A, we've completely lost sight of B.

8 - Let It Be
Performed By The Beatles
Maybe it's human nature or a female driven instinct, I don't know, but we always want to fix something that we think is broken, to right the wrong, to set a crooked line straight. We are confident that our actions can make the world a brighter place and that we're doing it in the absolutely right way without having the slightest notion that this great desire we have for fixing is actually what breaks things even more in the first place. Because really, in the ever famous words, sometimes for things to work out and to fall into place, we just need to, let it be.

7 - Don't Stop Believing
Performed By Journey
First made famous in 1981 (yes, way before some of the Glee cast were born and some others were probably still in diapers) this has always been the anthem for those who have wanted to feel unrestricted. It's words are simple and comes with the profound meaning - it doesn't matter where you are from but it is about where you are going.

6 - Fix You
Performed By Coldplay
If there were ever a song needed to pay tribute to every parent, family or best friend who practised unconditional love and opened their homes and hearts at the worst of times, then this song would be it. "Lights will guide you home" - irrelevant of your loss, mistake or misdirection, just come home and we'll take you through.

5 - White Christmas Makes Me Blue
Performed By Randy Travis (An Old Time Christmas)
For everyone who has lost a loved one, you will know the meaning of this song the instant you hear it. For many, Christmas is about getting together and joy, and yet for some others, Christmas means finding the strength to move on beyond a significant loss, to be happy again. For some, it is also the season where there open their hearts to a small ray of hope, praying that the miracle that they've needed all this while will finally become a reality.

4 - Temporary Home
Performed By Carrie Underwood
Born in a country that wasn't home, my first flight was when I was approximately 30 days old and I haven't stopped since. I did not have the privilege of getting my own room till I was 18 and the desire to stop living out of boxes in a place I want to call home is stronger than any I'll ever have. When I first heard the lines, "windows and rooms that I'm passin' through" - it touched a very raw nerve. See, not all of us want white houses and picket fences, I think I'm not stepping out of line when I say, most of us just want homes where love rules and judgement gets locked outside.

3 - I Didn't Know My Own Strength
Performed By Whitney Houston
"Lost touch with my soul, I had no where to turn, I had no where to go, Lost sight of my dream, Thought it would be the end of me, I thought I’d never make it through, I had no hope to hold on to, I thought I would break, I picked myself back up, Hold my head up high, I was not built to break, I didn’t know my own strength" - Do I really need to say more?

2 - Amazing Grace
Written By John Newton (1779) / Performed By Various Artistes
Inspired from his experiences of being a sailor in the Royal Navy participating in slave trade, this is a song that has spanned through many generations of Sunday services and grief. Having lost one parent when I was 3, I grew up despising the story of Lazarus constantly wondering why God would raise Lazarus from the dead but allow my parent to die. There were no easy answers but as I learned the words to this song - I was blind but now I see - it has taught me that what we perceive as death is actually freedom and what we perceive as blindness is actually sight but only if we want to see it this way. Sometimes we become so adamant in seeing things how we want them to be, we forget to see them as how they really are.

1 - Pearl Harbour Sucks
Performed By Trey Parker & Matt Stone
Now, don't get me wrong, I loved the movie Pearl Harbour for all its dramatic Hollywood elements. I first heard this song when I was at the brink of giving up or giving in. There seemed to be too many decisions, yet another move and even more repercussions, and everything lacked direction. And then I heard this. No, it's not an award winning tune and will probably be nowhere near a Grammy nomination but for anyone who has had that warm, fuzzy feeling of a grubby 5 year old saying I love you more than ice-cream, then this song will give you just about the same effect.
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Books Sold - 6 Nov 2011 to 31 May 2012

Some of you have asked me for my total number of books sold to evaluate KDP Select so here it is. Bear in mind, that results will vary based on genre and author. Good luck and remember, Keep Moving Forward.

Total - 120,836

1. Excuse Me, My Brains Have Stepped Out
Amazon Kindle - 42,559
Paperback -
Smashwords -

2. Frequent Traveller
Amazon Kindle - 35277
Paperback -
Smashwords -

3. Dora's Essentials - Books, Blogs & Smiles 1
Amazon Kindle - 462
Smashwords -

4. Mirror Me Martha (Short Story)
Amazon Kindle - 281
Smashwords -

5. Drive On Hope (Short Story)
Amazon Kindle - 190
Smashwords -

6. Blog-A-Licious Directory 2012
Amazon Kindle - 1
Smashwords -

7. Pandora's Reading Room 1
Amazon Kindle -
Paperback - N/A

8. The Cat That Barked (Short Story)
Amazon Kindle -

9. Dora's Essentials - Examining Anxiety
Amazon Kindle -

10. Dora's Essentials - Books, Blogs & Smiles 2
Amazon Kindle -

11. Elevenses from Around the World
Amazon Kindle -

12. Genetically Modified Foods vs. Sustainability
Amazon Kindle -

Blog-A-Licius - Sherbet Blossom



Dealightfully Frugal

Blog-A-Licious - The Few, The Proud, The Wife


My Soul Slippers

Blog-A-Licous - Textbook Mommy

Blog-A-Licious - Blue Frogs Legs

Blog-A-Licious - Pretty All True

Pretty All True

Blog-A-Licious - tbaoo



Powered by

Blog-A-Licious - The Invisible Art

Blog-A-Licious - Rediscovering Domesticity

Rediscovering Domesticity

Blog-A-Licious - Quiver Full

Blog-A-Licious - Cori's Big Mouth

Blog-A-Licious - Great Fun


Blog-A-Licious - Busy Wife

Blog-A-Licious - Steps To Happiness

Powered by

Blog-A-Licious - Toby & Max

Blog-A-Licious - Amelie

Raising Amelie

Blog-A-Licious - Peas In A Pod

Blog-A-Licious - Riley

Blognostics - Poetry


My Awards - September 2010

My Awards - September 2010
Awarded By Jo Frances

My Awards - May 2011

My Awards - May 2011
Awarded By Alejandro Guzman

My Awards - May 2011

My Awards - May 2011
Awarded by Kriti Mukherjee

My Awards - April 2011

My Awards - April 2011
Awarded By Roy Durham

My Awards - June 2011

My Awards - June 2011
Awarded By Sulekha Rawat

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